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Spinal Cord Injuries

Understanding Workplace-Related Spinal Cord Injuries

Workplace accidents can lead to severe spinal cord injuries, causing significant physical, emotional, and financial hardships for affected individuals and their families. These injuries may result from falls, machinery accidents, construction incidents, or other occupational hazards.

If you suffer a spinal cord injury in the workplace, it is crucial that you receive treatment and seek the counsel of a spinal cord injury attorney as soon as possible. Proper diagnoses can generally be secured with an MRI, CT scan, or myelogram and will help ensure that you receive the needed treatment for a successful medical outcome. Our Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys work closely with clients to ensure that you receive the L&I benefits to which you may be entitled. Call Emery | Reddy, PLLC today to speak to one of our experienced Intake Specialists for a Free Case Review and to learn how we may be able to assist you with your claim.

A doctors illustrates back pain on a model spine.

Spinal Cord Injuries and Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Ratings

When a spinal cord injury occurs due to a workplace accident in Washington state, the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) assesses for a PPD rating to determine the extent of permanent impairment. This rating plays a crucial role in providing compensation to injured workers for their lost wages, medical expenses, and ongoing rehabilitation needs.

How Are PPD Ratings Determined?

The evaluation process for PPD ratings considers various factors specific to workplace-related spinal cord injuries, such as the circumstances of the accident, the severity of the injury, and the impact it has on the individual’s ability to return to work or perform daily tasks. In order for L&I to determine whether you are entitled to benefits, the Department will issue an order for an Independent Medical Exam (IME). Otherwise, they may request a rating be preformed by a qualified provider after treatment has concluded.

What Is an Independent Medical Exam (IME)?

An Independent Medical Exam (IME) is a medical evaluation requested by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) or a self-insured employer (SIE) to review your medical history and accident details, to establish finding, opinions, and conclusions about your physical condition. IMEs are conducted by approved L&I providers and are intended to be objective, so no patient-provider relationship is established. During the exam, the provider will review your medical history and accident details to establish finding, opinions, and conclusions about your physical condition, including:

Evaluation of injury severity: An Independent Medical Exam (IME) aims to provide an objective assessment of the severity of the spinal cord injury, including its physical and functional implications. This evaluation helps determine the extent of impairment and the impact on the individual’s ability to work and perform daily activities.

Unfortunately, IMEs can be problematic. For one, the injured worker does not usually get a say in who conducts their IME. What’s more, L&I doctors are rarely as neutral or objective as they claim. They tend to be more loyal to the insurance company that hired them, and, in many cases, their reports and assessments will try to make the case that an injured worker is fine.

Causation determination: In cases where there may be questions regarding the cause of the spinal cord injury, an Independent Medical Exam aims to establish whether the injury is, in fact, related to the industrial injury or occupational illness. This evaluation is crucial for determining eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits.

Many IME doctors will attempt to claim that the worker’s condition is not related to an industrial injury, but was a pre-existing condition neither aggravated nor sustained at the workplace. Such accusations can massively impact the length and validity of a claim, let alone the potential for any future award and further treatment.

Treatment recommendations: IME reports often include recommendations for medical treatment, rehabilitation, and ongoing care tailored to the specific needs of the injured worker. These recommendations help guide the individual’s recovery process and ensure they receive appropriate care.

Adding Conditions: Sometimes L&I Claims Managers recommend IME exams when a client wants to add a condition to their claim, finding that an accident-related injury took longer to surface. Other times it’s because the industrial injury or occupational illness has caused further complications or aggravated a pre-existing condition.

When one sustains a catastrophic injury to one part of the body, it is easy to miss lesser injuries elsewhere. Additionally, the stress of an industrial injury or occupational illness can often worsen a pre-existing condition. If left untreated, these lesser or former conditions can become a great burden on an injured worker, making the recovery process much longer than it might otherwise have been.

What Is the Impact of an Independent Medical Exam (IME) on Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Rating?

The findings of an IME can significantly influence the potential PPD rating assigned to a workplace-related spinal cord injury. L&I considers the results of the IME, along with other medical evidence and documentation, in determining the extent of permanent impairment and the corresponding compensation awarded to the injured worker.

How Much Is My L&I Settlement or Award Worth?

In Washington state, the money awarded to a claimant is determined by numerous factors making it difficult to provide an accurate L&I settlement calculator. Factors that determine a settlement or award amount include the date the injury occurred, the severity of the injury, and the steps the injured worker takes to receive the compensation they need.

  • Permanent partial disability award: Payment is typically based on the type and severity of the injury and whether an Independent Medical Exam (IME) agrees or disagrees with the physician’s opinion. Washington State L&I updates injury payouts each year based on the cost of living adjustments (COLA); the date of your injury will influence your PPD award amount.
  • The seriousness of your disability: Your injury is rated as a percentage in its category or given a value of 1 – 9. Typically, the higher the number, the more significant your injury is. Your PPD award is calculated from those numbers before your case is closed. The Permanent Partial Disability L&I settlement calculator is the L&I Disability Awards Charts.
  • What you’ve done to help yourself: If you’re proactive regarding your workers’ compensation claim and work hard to ensure your claim has the correct information, you could earn more in your award payout.

Is My Spinal Cord Injury a Third-Party Claim or an L&I Claim?

Third-Party Claim

third-party claim is one in which someone other than your employer or co-worker is responsible for your injury. If you have been injured on the job due to someone else’s actions or negligence, you may be entitled to additional compensation through a third-party claim, which combines your L&I claim with a personal injury claim using the same facts.

Unlike workers’ compensation payments, there is no limit to the amount of compensation an injured worker may seek in third-party damages. Third-party claims are private matters and are typically litigated directly with the Washington State Superior Court.

If your spinal cord injury leaves you out of work for an extended period of time,  you may be entitled to compensation for pain, suffering, and lost wages.

L&I Claim

An L&I claim results from a workplace injury or occupational illness. An L&I claim is monitored and managed by an L&I Claims Manager who sees the process through from initial claim filing to closure. If all goes as planned, your claim is accepted by L&I and you will receive certain benefits.

When you are injured or contract certain types of illnesses at work, you are entitled to certain workers’ compensation benefits. You can file an L&I claim in Washington state through the L&I website’s File Fast tool, by calling the L&I office at 877.561.3453, or at your doctor’s office. After you file, it is imperative that you call an experienced L&I attorney to help you navigate the L&I claims process.

Our Seattle L&I Attorneys Will Help You Recover:

  • Medical benefits: L&I medical benefits will cover all medical costs associated with your claim. This can include doctor appointments, treatments, surgeries, occupational therapy, and prescription medications.
  • Time-loss and wage replacement: If you are approved for time-loss benefits, you may receive compensation for the lost wages and vocational rehabilitation.

1. L&I disability pension: life-long benefit awarded to injured workers who will never be able to return to any gainful employment due to a severe or life-threatening injury.

2. Permanent partial disability (PPD) award: a one-time sum paid to injured workers when their L&I claim is closed. The worker can re-enter the workforce following a PPD award.

3. Claim resolution settlement agreement (CRSA): an L&I settlement option where all parties agree to close an injury claim for a specified amount. When agreeing to this settlement type, the injured worker exchanges all future L&I benefits, except medical, for the payment.

We understand that many families depend on the income of an injured worker, and our L&I and Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys are dedicated to winning the benefits and compensation you are entitled to by law. Our practice was founded on a commitment to advocating for workers’ rights, and we are proud of our record protecting the injured and disabled. Call us today to learn how Emery | Reddy can help you with your back injury L&I claim.


Watch This Video to Learn More about How Employment Law and L&I Claims Work Together

Your L&I Claim Is Worth More If You Also Have an Employment Claim

A significant number of L&I — workers’ compensation claims often involve additional legal claims such as employment or third-party claims. Many people file their claims without seeking representation from an L&I attorney and thus never discover that, in addition to their L&I claim, they may be missing out on the ability to file an employment claim or a third-party claim. Pursuing additional legal action with the help of an experienced Labor and Industries attorney has the potential to significantly increase a claim’s overall compensation. At Emery | Reddy, our experienced Attorneys practice both Employment and Workers’ Compensation Law, which means we will investigate all aspects of your claim to make sure you aren’t missing out on any potential benefits.

What Is an Employment Claim?

Many injured workers find that their employer has taken, or plans to take, adverse action against them because they filed an L&I claim or they are out of work. You can file a lawsuit against your employer for several reasons, including retaliation, wrongful termination, disability discrimination, or unpaid wages. An L&I attorney who is experienced in both L&I — Workers’ Compensation Law and Employment Law can help you with your L&I claim while simultaneously filing a federal or state law claim for the violation of workers’ rights by your employer.

Who Is at Fault for a Workplace Injury?

L&I is a no-fault system, ensuring compensation for any workplace injury. However, if a third party is involved in causing the injury, you may be able to pursue legal action against them for additional compensation under third-party claims.

How Do I Know If I Have a Strong L&I Claim?

If you have suffered a spinal cord injury at work and wonder if you should get help with your L&I claim, ask yourself the following:

If any of the above apply to you, Emery | Reddy may be able to help.

Navigating a workers’ compensation claim can be difficult and very time-consuming, especially when you’re ill or injured. You want to focus on healing and make sure your bills are paid, but if you don’t file things properly or on time, your health, home, and job could be in jeopardy. Many individuals miss out on much-needed L&I benefits because they don’t understand what to do or how to get the most compensation for their injuries. If you are experiencing any challenges in your case, a Labor and Industries attorney can assist you. By contacting Emery | Reddy as soon as possible after you’ve been injured, we can help you avoid the common pitfalls of filing and navigating an L&I claim. Our Seattle L&I Attorneys are here for you every step of the way.

receptionist and desk in the emery reddy office in seattle

Emery | Reddy Can Help You with Your L&I Claim

Emery | Reddy is the only law firm in Washington state that is equipped to provide comprehensive representation on your case from every angle. Our Seattle L&I Attorneys thoroughly assess every case to determine if our clients have additional claims, and at times this can extend far beyond the underlying workers’ compensation claim.

If you have been injured in the workplace, call Emery | Reddy today for a Free Case Review with an experienced Intake Specialist to learn more about how we may be able help you.

Want More Information?

Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to injured workers. Learn more about the claims process, benefits and awards, and IMEs.

Most people suffering from a personal injury have similar questions. Read more to learn the answers to some of the most common personal injury accident questions that we hear from injured workers.

Self-insured employers account for one-third of workers’ compensation in Washington state. Find out more about how to handle SIEs.

We fight for you

Meet the Team

The Personal Injury Attorneys at Emery | Reddy, PLLC are passionate about helping workers with L&I claims and Employment Law issues. We Help Workers®. It’s our motto and what drives us every day.

We know how L&I and big companies think, and we understand the tactics they use. Our Labor and Industries Attorneys use that knowledge coupled with over three decades of experience to help our clients get access to the L&I benefits to which they are legally entitled and hold employers accountable when they break the law.

If you’re struggling with an L&I claim, injury, or legal issue at work, call us for a Free Case Review with an experienced Intake Specialist to learn more about how Emery | Reddy may be able to help you today.

“In need of a good law firm, I was lucky and found Emery | Reddy. From the start, Patrick Reddy and his colleagues were extremely attentive, helpful, transparent, and professional. They are easy to work with, responsive and hard-working. Could not be happier with the experience. Great people! Great firm!”

— Louisa B.

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